Podcast Episode 12: When Losing Your Job Starts Your Business

Tasty Good Toffee is a local favorite for sweets lovers — boasting mouthwatering flavors and some fun surprises, like toffee with a hint of ghost pepper. But that wasn’t always the case for owner Katie Becker, who started the business as a side hustle, or as she says, “more of a hobby to keep grandma’s toffee recipe alive”.

However, after she lost her job, she was forced to act on her dream of taking the business full time. Learn how she has moved from craft shows and pop ups to wholesale, and the critical decisions she needs to make in order for her business to grow.

Learn more at www.tastygoodtoffee.com, or visit Tasty Good Toffee on Facebook or Instagram!

The difference between awareness and distraction

There’s a difference between being aware and being distracted.

It’s important that you know and recognize the gap between the two.

When I was in high school, I was a mid-distance runner. I didn’t excel at the sprints, like 100m or 200m. Sure, I was fast, but not fast enough for those short distances. My race was the 400m or 800m.

The ones where you had a full length of a track to run the race of your life. But not too much that you’d peter out after 3 minutes.

When you were lining up at the start line, if it was the start of the season, or you were at a meet where you didn’t know the other schools, you might not know the level of talent around you.

You didn’t know their plan of attack.

Did they start fast and maintain a lead?
Did the drop back and then surge ahead at the end?
Did they bait the other runners and then blow by them with a grin?

The first few races of the season you spent running, but also taking in information.

Analyzing your competition.
Learning to maximize your talents.
Perfecting your craft.

But as the season went on, you got a good sense of who was out there, and what your strength as a runner was.

That’s when you started to learn the difference between being aware and being distracted.

Once you understood who the top runners were, and who you might run against, you were aware of your competition. You were intimately aware of their strategy as well.

When you lined up at the start line, you knew they were in lane 4, but you didn’t let that deter you from your plan to run in lane 2. How you were going to attack the curve and make up the distance on the final bend?

You were AWARE of their presence near you – keeping them in your peripheral vision during the race. But you were not DISTRACTED, running in response to their performance, trying to “beat” them. You didn’t try to mimic their approach. If you did, you were toast.

To run the best race of your life, you were aware of your competition, but once you started running, you did not allow those around you to distract you. They could motivate you, but it was a matter of choice.

Focus ahead, not side to side.

Turn your head to look, and suddenly you’re distracted – you lose precious milliseconds and you lose your focus.

Why is this fresh in my mind?

Because today I turned my head to look at a competitor. And I quickly realized I had moved from awareness to distraction.

It started with catching a glimpse of a social media post. It was a post by a competitor.

I shouldn’t have even let it bother me, but it did.

I found myself dwelling on it for a good part of the day.
Making me question some of the direction of my business.
Causing me to doubt my skills as a marketer.

And leaving me breathless, like I was trying run behind them rather than run my own race. You could classify this as one giant DISTRACTION.

Distraction has many relatives, and they’re not any better.

Confusion.
Disturbance.
Complication.
Interruption.
Interference.

I felt all of those things as I let my focus move from what’s in my control, to the things my competitors were doing.

All of a sudden, the world started falling and I felt like I was going down with it.

Now the truth is, this only lasted for a short time. Luckily, I caught it early.

But it’s a common mistake, and I see companies making this mistake all the time.

To avoid being distracted, they don’t even pay attention to their competitors.

That’s not good either. Because then suddenly they are caught off guard when something “comes out of nowhere.”

To grow our company, position our business effectively, and market to our target audience, we have to be aware of our competition.

The strategies they use.
The position they hold
The way they run their race.

However, use that information to plan your strategy – and then remain focused.

Aware of their presence. But free of distraction.

Stop being a critic. Start being a creator.

With each of us having access to a digital megaphone, we’ve grown accustomed to offering feedback on nearly everything. I’ve experienced this in my own life, being the recipient of criticism from how I should parent my children and how I should do more with the PTO, to what career choices I should make and what’s wrong with my professional wardrobe.

We love to criticize.

Don’t believe me?

Listen to the group of fans watching a college football game.  Listen to yourself when you talk about what you like or don’t like about your son’s school, or teacher.  Listen to your supervisor as he talks about what he would do if he were running the company. Read the reviews on amazon for crying out loud.

It’s safe to say, it’s a habit.  But why?

Because it’s easier to criticize than it is to create.

To be the creator is to invite “desirable difficulty” into our lives.  Anytime you start something new, or difficult, or dangerous, you might fail.  And people don’t want to be held responsible for your failure.

They don’t want to give you advice that leads you down the wrong path, or ends up blowing up in your face – because then it’s their fault, or so they think.

So instead, they tell you everything that’s wrong with your idea. They find a way to poke holes from every angle – they might even delight in predicting your demise.  But if you’ve done your homework, and you persevere, this is simply fuel for the fire.

A true creator embraces opposition and discovers the elements of truth in the feedback, disregarding the rest, saving it for the made for TV movie that documents the perilous journey.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. The action is the hard part.

Acting on the idea, well, that’s rare. Critics don’t have the guts to actually take their advice and build a better mousetrap. Ideas are only as successful as their implementation, and if you need proof, Google the history of the Xerox machine.

Critics love to pick things apart. But they do so from a safety net, outside the arena, where there’s little opportunity for failure coupled with a near zero potential for greatness.

As a marketer, I readily embrace feedback, but only to a certain extent. And based on my experience with critics in event marketing and nonprofit management, those with the biggest mouths are usually the first to decline the opportunity to get involved and make it better.

Is that ironic?

Nope. Better solutions take work and critics talk while creators work.

So, as you think about the type of impact you’d like to have on this world, I challenge you to stop being a critic, and start being a creator

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

You have no right to talk if you haven’t been in the arena.

And to light the fire under your feet, I want to remind you of these powerful words from Theodore Roosevelt, because it’s not the critic who counts, it’s the man in the arena (the creator).

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

— Theodore Roosevelt

Are you a critic or a creator? I hope you’ll choose to create.

LinkedIn Beginner: 10 Tips to Get Started

LinkedIn Beginner: 10 Tips to Get Started

I’ve talked with a number of people lately about LinkedIn.

Many of these people have said, “I have a profile but I don’t use it.” Or “I’ve never gotten anything from it.”

Well, just like all things in life, you results are directly related to what you put into it.

If you’re a LinkedIn Beginner, these steps should help you optimize your profile and increase your exposure. Even if you’re not a “beginner” (per se), perhaps you haven’t touched LinkedIn in months or years iIt’s ok, you’re not alone!). These steps will help you revive your dormant profile so it’s lively and productive once again!

1. Update your LinkedIn profile photo

Make sure it’s a professional photo. It doesn’t have to be taken in a studio, but it should professionally represent you and the type of business that you’re in.

If you happen to be a creative type, it may be a little more off center, with a specific color treatment applied. Or if you’re in real estate, it may be a well positioned shot with a house blurred in the background. Be creative, but keep it professional and polished.

EXAMPLE: My LinkedIn Profile, and the profile photo that shouldn’t be!

linkedin-profile-example-yes-no

2. Update your headline

By default, your headline is the title and company information you listed as your current (or most recent) position. You can change this to be something more descriptive, as this is one of the most important places that LinkedIn search pulls information about who you are and what you do. Instead of “Project Manager at XYZ Company” you may go for something like “Project Manager | Salesforce Administrator | Certified in Microsoft Dynamics”.

Think about keywords and descriptive phrases to use in this bio so someone gets an accurate glimpse of your unique skills and responsibilities. My friend, John Fulwider, is a great example!

Headline-example-Linkedin

3. Add a powerful summary

I’m amazed at the number of LinkedIn bios I review, and how many of them are lacking a summary. Or their summary is their current position.

While it doesn’t have to be long (and probably shouldn’t be too long!) it should tell someone what unique skills, experiences, and goals you have. Tell a story about how you got started in your industry and what keeps you there – why are you the best at what you do and why does it matter?

EXAMPLE: Kindra Foster, a senior writer and president of Foster Writing, does this well:

Linkedin-summary-example

4. Publish a post

While this doesn’t have to be done right away, it is a great way to educate and engage your network of connections. Think of a topic that you can share specific insight on – not in a salesly say (Puh-lease! Don’t do that) but in a way that will bring value to your network.

If you are a chiropractor, share the common things you see people doing as they work at their desk that are leading to back pain. If you’re a sales representative for a printing company, share the common types of paper and the applications for each.

EXAMPLE: Joseph Knecht with Venture Tech, published a great article about start-up life. An introspective look at this topic provides valuable visibility for his company (that helps startups vet their idea, identify customers, and launch a product).

Example-of-LinkedIn-Pulse-Post

5. Share an update (and continue to, regularly!)

This is similar to a Facebook status update, but is designed for the professional world. If you find an article that was very helpful for you, share it here along with a short call to action such as: “Really enjoyed this article about time management and why it’s no longer a to-do list type of world [link here]”.

Think about the type of brand you want to portray on LinkedIn and keep the resources, articles and information you share relevant to your brand and influence.

EXAMPLE: Startup and marketing extraordinaire Brian Ardinger (founder of NMotion) always shares relevant information with his audience that reinforces the strength of his brand. Tip – he also uses an application called Buffer so that whenever he sees or reads a valuable piece of content, he can just click on a button in his browser to add it to his queue of posts!

Status-Update-example-LinkedIn

6. Endorse at least 10 other professionals.

While endorsements are not a golden ticket to mastery, they do designate a high level of skill within a specific area or focus. When you endorse someone else, you’re validating their skill based on your experience. The endorsement also shows your network that you’re willing to share your experience, and the endorsement shows up in the news feed for both people.

Note: Be selective of this as you should not endorse randomly as just a method for increasing visibility on your profile.

EXAMPLE: A number of people in my network have endorsed my skills in marketing.

LinkedIn Endorsements for Ali Schwanke

7. Join at least two LinkedIn groups and introduce yourself

Groups are a great place to meet like-minded individuals, whether in your industry or in an industry closely connected to your work.

Back to the chiropractor example: perhaps you join a chiropractor-focused group and you can share tips for building a chiropractic business. But then you also joins a health and wellness group which includes professionals in a number of ancillary industries. There are local networking groups as well as national groups for progressive discussions and thought leadership opportunities.

The motto here is the same as a status update – provide value. Give. Don’t ask for business in groups. Aim to be a person of value. Be a resource.

LinkedIn-Group-Example-Chiropractor

8. Add Volunteer Work

Whether you serve on a nonprofit board or simply volunteer periodically, you can add a volunteer position to the “volunteer” area of your profile. This is a great way to add an update to your profile when you haven’t made a change for a while. Even consider adding past volunteer work.

Volunteer-LinkedIn-Profile

9. Get a custom LinkedIn URL

Market yourself and your presence on LinkedIn using a custom URL, which you can change on your profile. This helps in organic search as well as sharing the link with others.

LinkedIn-Unique-URL-example Search-results-linkedin-unique-url

10. Promote your LinkedIn profile

Add the link to your signature and encourage people to connect with you. Now that’s just good networking sense!

Bonus: A post on the Social Talent blog will show you step by step on how to add the LinkedIn badge to your signature.

Others ideas?

Please share in the comments below!

Proposal Writing Tip: What Your Clients What to Hear

Proposal Writing Tip: What Your Clients What to Hear

The following is a guest post from Bidsketch founder Ruben Gamez. Check out his awesome proposal builder software!

When it comes to sales, attracting your audience, and building a community, words are a powerful tool. Used correctly, they can be your secret weapon. Ignored, and you’ll suffer the consequences in your sale pipeline.

This post offers you one proposal writing tip that helps you figure out what your clients want to hear. After all, the tactic is very simple.

Proposal Writing Tip: You have to talk your client’s language!

Proposal writing tip

The fact is, your client has a particular problem he (we’re just going to use the pronoun “he” so we don’t have to go back and forth with he/she!) wants to solve, which he thinks about in specific terms. And if you don’t know what this problem is, and how he thinks about it — in other words, what language to use — there’s just no way to close a deal with him.

Nothing you say will interest him!

This probably sounds obvious now I’ve said it. And yes, these kinds of tips are obvious…but they’re really HARD to figure out on your own without someone else pointing it out to you!

Here are some do’s and don’t’s of writing in the language of your client:

DO talk about the reasons behind *why* your client wants what you’re offering.

DON’T assume you know those reasons in advance. This is a killer mistake! For example, say you’re a web designer, and a car wash owner comes to you for a new site. It would be easy to talk about the enticing modern aesthetic of the redesign you’d like to offer, etc etc. But…what if they actually want a new site because clients are having trouble finding their car wash on a side-street? What if they want a mobile-friendly site with a prominent map and clear directions? What if they actually think their existing design *is* enticing and modern-looking (even if it isn’t), and you just offended them?

Now, obviously you can’t know all this in advance — but it’s DEFINITELY possible once you’ve identified them as a likely client. Because…you can just *ask* them 🙂

And this gets us to the “telepathic” secret…

Use your client’s exact words in your proposal.

I know, this feels weird — you’re afraid they’ll notice and think you’re up to something. But in fact, quoting key phrases back to them is incredibly powerful. It’s a sales technique used by some of the most persuasive people in the world, and basically it works because people are helpless against their own thoughts. Using their own words to offer them something makes the offer virtually irresistible.

[Tweet “Use your client’s own exact words when solving their problem. This makes it personal.”]

(And even if they *do* notice, they just think, “Wow, they were really listening!” And that’s also a GOOD thing.)

DO talk about the *benefits* in your proposal, your client hopes to get out of what you’re offering. For example, if you offer photography services, your client might want you to make his employees (and thus his company, and ultimately himself) look good to others.

DON’T talk about *features* in your proposal without tying them to benefits. For instance, telling your client about how you can provide HDR photos might sound impressive to you, but it’s meaningless to him — unless you explain that it makes them look more vibrant and life-like.

This illustration is a great way to show you that benefits and features are two different things. You might want to buy a bed with all of these features, but what you really want is a good night’s sleep without your back hurting in the morning!

(Note: I discovered this on the Kissmetrics blog – they are amazing!)

Here’s an example to illustrate how to use client language in proposals:

If you’re doing an initial consult with a client, you might have some questions and answers that look like this:

Q: Why are you looking to create a new company portal?

A: We’d like to improve internal communication.

Q: Ah, OK. Can you tell me about some specific problems you’re seeing due to this lack of communication?

A: Sure. Every year in our employee survey, communication is one of the biggest complaints. Employees say that we don’t listen to their concerns and suggestions on how to improve the company.

So here’s what you might write in your sales proposal:

“Every year, the employee survey shows that employees feel like management doesn’t listen to their concerns and suggestions on how to improve the company. The new company portal is going to change that perception. This portal will…”

And so on and so forth. See how easy that is? Your client wrote your proposal for you!

Speaking your client’s language is something you can do in *any* marketing material (and you should!)– but your proposals are definitely a key place to do this, and it’s very easy too.

Getting straight to the point in your proposals, and talking your client’s language can lead to surprising results. According to our research at Bidsketch, you not only get more closed deals — you can also command higher project fees.

Who doesn’t love free proposal templates? 

Bidsketch is a quick and easy tool that will help you make this strategy a consistent process. Check out the proposal creation tool at Bidsketch.com. There you can also access dozens of free proposal templates (yay!) and get a free trial to see how it can benefit your business and your sales process.

______________

Create professional looking client proposals in half the time. Win more projects with online proposal software, Bidsketch.

About Ruben, founder of Bidsketch

Originally a software developer, Ruben bootstrapped Bidsketch while working full time and was quickly able to grow it into a profitable business. He spent several years working for a billion dollar payroll company. There he helped build and manage a custom proposal system that was used to regularly win seven and eight figure deals.

After learning about the psychology behind closing large deals and helping friends with their client meetings, he decided to make it his mission to take away the pain from the proposal process.

Why All Marketers Should Run 78 Miles

Why All Marketers Should Run 78 Miles

This last weekend, thousands of runners did something crazy.

We piled into vehicles and drove to Omaha, NE, where we proceeded to run 78 miles from one city to another.

Called the “Market to Market Relay,” or M2M, this event has grown in size and popularity since it first launched 6 years ago, to be the largest day-long running relay in the world. Complete with costumes ranging from toy story to duck dynasty to hot dogs, mustard, and ketchup (there was no way we were going to let those wieners pass us), there’s a lot we can learn from the M2M Relay. In fact, I think marketers everywhere should run 78 miles to see why this race has become my favorite case study for marketing at its finest.

Why? Let me tell you.

1. They understand their target audience.

The market to market relay started as an idea, by people who love running.  Meaning….the crazy ones. If you don’t like heading out for a run in the rain, or the snow, this isn’t you.  If you get a little weather-shy when it comes to putting in the miles, you probably aren’t a “runner.”  This race takes place every fall, and it’s been graced by the presence of all types of weather, not to mention, sweaty smelly people, piled into one vehicle for more than 12 hours a day.

The fierce understanding of their target audience allows them to get their message out through key influencers.  It allows them to have a specialized focus in terms of marketing dollars.  Many companies spend their time trying to appeal to everyone. M2M demonstrates that when it comes to target audience, less is more.

2. Their sponsorship opportunities just make sense.

When you look at the list of sponsors for the market to market relay, you stop and think – “Wow, what a great sponsor.”  Example? Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital.  As the title sponsor, their logo is on the t-shirts, the outstanding bar glasses you get at the finish, plus every single email and communication piece that is sent on behalf of the organization.  Brilliant. And good luck getting those doctors to give that opportunity so some other health group can slap their name on it.  That’s marketing gold.

So, what if your company doesn’t have a sponsorship opportunity like this? Ask around.  You might be able to get in on the ground level of something new.  If Nebraska Orthopaedic would have waited until the race grew to 500 teams, they never would have had the opportunity.

3. They know that organization trumps everything else.

When it comes to an event that involves more than two people, organizational finesse becomes the linchpin.  An outstanding customer experience is the fuel for word-of-mouth marketing and a great event experience is driven by world-class logistics.  Moving through 21 different relay exchange points, directing traffic, moving runners, dealing with health crises and weather snafus, and the general public who doesn’t understand why people are running down the road like ants looking for a picnic, takes A LOT of organization and juggling.

And though I’m sure they still receive their fair share of complaints (because you can’t please everyone), M2M continues to rank near the top of runners’ yearly race lists and bucket lists of the middle-aged and newly active. Marketing, along with sales, operations and customer service should always take a good hard look at the logistics. Lack of follow-through and poor detail management can sabotage even the best marketing plans (don’t believe me? Read about the Vegas half-marathon nightmare. I was there – it was not good!).

4. They embrace technology.

Released this year, the M2M Relay App lets you review the stages, input your time and track your estimated finish time. Though our team had some issues with the app, this was an excellent step for the race organizers.  We hope it was only our team, but even if it did have kinks, I’m sure they’ll work it out for next year.

Email communication was always very clear and timely, keeping runners and captains informed about race details. Online registration and timely reporting of information also lived up to our demand for instant gratification, where we want to know what time we finished, what place we were, how we measured up to the hot dog, ketchup and mustard guys, and whether or not that meant we should kick someone off the team and ask someone faster to join us next year (kidding…sort of).

5. They make a big deal out of everyone.

We all can’t be the runners that pull off 10 miles at a 5:30 pace.  Some of us don’t look good in short shorts and runners tanks.  Others don’t know what it means to pace themselves because this is honestly their first rodeo.  But that’s ok.  M2M planners and volunteers celebrate everyone – simply running 4.5 miles uphill with the wind in your face is worth celebrating.  The hundreds of volunteers that help with the event, from Omaha, to Platteview, to Louisville, to Eagle, to Lincoln, are a source of constant encouragement.  Many people volunteer with the event simply to be part of the race atmosphere.

Marketers should take a few minutes to observe these M2M volunteers – specifically a gal directing traffic at the exchange in Eagle, Nebraska.  She managed her volunteer role like a BOSS and teams left laughing and encouraged by her enthusiasm. If more companies would take the time to celebrate their employees for the little things they did to help the customer, the customers would have a much better experience.

As you can tell, it was a fun experience – but it has left me thinking about a myriad of things that impact the “marketing” of a brand. I know we’ve talked about this, but it’s more than email marketing, direct mail and social media.

Not sure you agree?  Well, perhaps you need to run the 78 miles next year.  Or at least 10 of them. It just might change your outlook on marketing.